The latest version of the Wireless Access Protocol, released this week, now aligns with some key Internet standards, which should make it easier to use, and more useful, in microbrowser-based wireless applications.
The first WAP specification, unveiled in 1998, was designed as a communications protocol and application environment for enabling a WAP-compliant browser in a handheld device to work with information, formatted in WAP's Wireless Markup Language (WML), on a server.
Relentlessly hyped, WAP suffered from several shortcomings. One was that users had to create, in effect, WML content servers that were separate from other HTML servers. Secondly, WAP didn't support basic Internet standards: TCP, Transport Layer Security (TLS) and HTTP. Third, many of the early WAP-based services, mostly intended for Web-enabled cell phone users, were badly designed: they were cumbersome, confusing and hard to navigate.
WAP 2.0 addresses the first two problems at least. The WAP Forum Ltd., which is the vendor association that develops and promotes the specification, worked much more closely with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to build 2.0.
Specifically, WAP 2.0 now lets developers work in the XHTML, which the W3C intends will replace HTML. Developers now have a common, standard markup language for browser applications and content. The WAP Forum also says WAP 2.0 applications are compatible with WAP 1.0 applications.
To the existing WAP transport protocol stack, the WAP Forum added a second transport option, based on the IETF's work in creating a mobile profile TCP for wireless connections. According to the Forum, this profile interoperates completely with standard TCP on the Internet. It also includes wireless versions of HTTP, as well as TLS for secure transactions.
The updated spec also now supports more bandwidth, faster data speeds (for 2.5 and 3G long-distance wireless nets), and a wider range of processors and screen dimensions.
The changes make WAP much more viable as a mainstream environment for thin-client applications - for small devices equipped with a browser for accessing server-based functions and information over a wireless connection. It should now be easier to incorporate WAP functions into an unfolding enterprise wireless strategy, where it still makes much more sense than it does in the consumer space.